Tag Archives: Tonga


‘1969: A Year in Tonga. Book 2: Volunteer: Survive or Thrive?’ is Roger Cowell’s second book. It resumes the story of his adventures in the Kingdom of Tonga, where he once served as a volunteer.



After being given only ten days to acclimatise, Roger begins his work as a teacher in a small primary school in the village of Houma. As he tries to share his knowledge with the children, he realizes that it’s not as simple as it initially appeared. So Roger learns…to teach, to understand the surrounding world, and to be an adult in a foreign culture. Despite his ups and downs, despite misunderstandings and the times of terrible loneliness, he gradually stops being a complete stranger and starts to fit into the close-knit community. He socializes with fellow volunteers, makes new friends, and creates a strong bond with his host family.


This book is quite different from its predecessor. The first volume is a pleasure to read. The beginning of Roger Cowell’s great adventure (this is what you can call a one-year-long sojourn in another country; especially if you are only 18 years old when it happens) fascinates and enthrals to such a degree that you simply don’t want to put the book down. And you think it gets even more interesting as the story unfolds. Unfortunately, it doesn’t.

To begin with, this volume – which can most kindly be described as mediocre – resembles a traditional journal. It is constructed from the author’s original diary entries and arranged chronologically, so in theory you are given a chance to ‘experience’ life in Tonga day by day and month by month. This would be absolutely wonderful if the narratives weren’t so…dull, brief, and sparse on details. Many of the ‘chapters’ end before they even start. Cowell’s cursoriness results in the stories being extremely sketchy. They appear to be only partially finished and therefore feel incomplete and undeveloped. What is more, quite a few of them recount the same – or almost the same – events and occurrences, thus making the memoir seem very repetitive and monotonous.

As for the Kingdom of Tonga, it is not an overly prominent subject. There are only few decent descriptions and virtually no information concerning the country’s culture, customs, or traditions. Of course, one does not have to write an anthropological analysis of an island society, nevertheless it would be nice to be able to ‘discover’ such faraway land and get to know it from a foreigner’s point of view. However, I shall say that Roger Cowell was a young man at the time of his service, so his lack of observational skills can be fully justified.

On a brighter note, the book doesn’t fail to deliver what a good historical memoir should. It gives you a unique glimpse of the past, bringing back memories and unraveling the secrets of an almost ancient world. This amazing journey is an adventure in itself. And, let me tell you, this is a journey oh-so worth setting out on.

As I don’t want to lie, I won’t say I recommend this book wholeheartedly. True, it serves as a literary time machine, and as such it provides a lot of enjoyment. But overall, it is disappointing. At least in my opinion. You may think otherwise. And this is why I’ll leave the judgement to you.


‘1969: A Year in Tonga. Book 1: Becoming a Volunteer’ is Roger Cowell’s first book dedicated to his one-year-long stay in the Kingdom of Tonga, where he served as a volunteer in the late 1960s.



Interested in other countries and cultures, 17-year-old Roger decides to apply for selection as a school-leaver teacher with New Zealand’s Volunteer Service Abroad. After getting through the interviews and completing the required training, he is prepared to leave his home and spend a year in a foreign land.

Equipped with basic instructions, one bag, and a cricket bat, Roger finally sets out on his adventure. He lands in Tonga, where he is introduced to his host family, and immediately begins the great journey of discovery. He gets to know the many wonders of the kingdom and the way of life of its inhabitants. But most of all, he gets ready to teach.


This is a good book, pure and simple. Roger Cowell definitely knows how to interest readers and grab their attention from the very first sentence. His memoir lets you travel back in time – in a split second you leave the digital world behind and find yourself in the late 1960s, where cell phones are non-existent, immediate deliveries unavailable, and instant communication not yet invented. He managed to revive the old days and, I must say, he did it amazingly well.

Of course, the book is not just a chronicle of the past. It is also the most interesting, the most informative account of one volunteer’s life, which should definitely be read by everyone who considers applying for the service. The author outlines the whole process: from filling in forms and questionnaires to attending interviews and courses to leaving New Zealand and reaching his final destination. You may think such delineations make the story mundane and dull. Well, they don’t. The chapters containing the descriptions are actually quite absorbing; almost as much as the ones documenting Cowell’s arrival and first days in Tonga.

The South Pacific kingdom… I wish I could say the country plays a central role in the story. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. The memoir does provide some insights into the daily life on the islands, but it is more a general overview than a thorough portrayal. The author focuses on his personal experiences, so if he mentions Tonga, it is always in relation to his engagements. Can this be considered a fault? Absolutely not. Roger Cowell was 18 years old at the time of his service; an innocent, young man with a naive eye, lacking in worldly wisdom. And yet, despite the circumstances, he tried to make discoveries and draw conclusions. His cursory observations give you a vague idea of what it means to live in a ‘tropical paradise’; especially if you come from a distant land. Cowell – like most visitors and travellers – had to deal with a certain set of feelings widely known as culture shock. He describes it at great length, helping readers understand this obscure phenomenon.

The book may not be exceptional in terms of literary expression, but it is a really good read. It’s an extremely enthralling, quite thought-provoking account that not only entertains but also teaches and inspires. I am sure you will enjoy it.


‘Bula: Sailing Across the Pacific’ is an adventure book that tells the story of Bryan Carson’s three-year-long voyage through the islands of the South Seas.



At the age of 29, Bryan comes to the realization that working for the corporate world is not his calling. He dreams of an escape, something new and exciting. As he doesn’t want to waste any more time, he buys a boat and decides to sail across the Pacific Ocean.

Along with his friend Figman, Bryan makes a safe passage to French Polynesia. After spending some quality time in Tahiti, he travels up north and visits the islands of Kiribati. Then, on his way to Hawaii, he gets caught in the ferocious storm but eventually manages to reach the archipelago. There he meets a girl named Misty, who accompanies him to Palmyra and American Samoa. In Pago Pago, the pair is joined by Muzzy, a sailor from New Zealand willing to show them the dark passage to the Kingdom of Tonga.

In the Friendly Islands, the boys say goodbye to their female crewmember, then leave Polynesia behind and sail to Fiji and New Caledonia, before ending their adventure in beautiful Australia.


This book is basically a written version of ‘The Hangover’, except that its story takes place on a boat which leisurely drifts through the warm waters of the Blue Continent. By no means is this a piece of serious literature. This title was created to entertain, to enthral, to give readers a little pleasure and enjoyment. I can assure you, if you grab this travelogue, you will get it all.

Of course, you may assume that any three-year-long voyage would be an exciting experience worth documenting in one way or another. That’s probably true; although personally I think this largely depends on a sailor. And Bryan… Well, Bryan is not your ordinary person. His jovial personality and ever-present eagerness to have fun is exactly what makes this account so extremely interesting. He had a blast during his journey and he didn’t mind writing about it in detail. So you’ll get to know the good, the bad, and the ugly; along with the hot, the steamy, the scary, the frightening, the strange, and the oddly bizarre. Each and every tale is spiked with his unique sense of humour, so you’ll definitely have quite a few laughs while reading about his South Seas frolics.

Now, Bryan’s memoir is predominantly about sailing. However, if you expect it to be a technical guide, you might be disappointed. It is nothing like this. You won’t find any useful tips, any practical advices here. But you will find a tremendously engaging narrative that will take you to the rough waters and magical islands of the Pacific Ocean, letting you discover some of the most fascinating cultures in the world. Without leaving your home, you’ll be able to walk on the white beaches and swim in pristine lagoons. You’ll be able to meet local inhabitants and a bunch of crazy tourists. In other words, you will have a hell of a good time.

So if you want to become a member of Bryan’s crew, simply read his book. I highly recommend it. It is a decently written account of a great voyage and I’m positive it will keep you entertained from the very first page. And who knows, maybe it will even inspire you to chase your own dreams?


‘The Miss Tutti Frutti Contest: Travel Tales of the South Pacific’ is a compilation of fifteen stories written by Graeme Lay. They are the collected accounts of many journeys the author took during the 1990s and the early 2000s.



In the Pacific region life is never dull and Graeme Lay certainly knows it. Travelling from country to country, he discovers the best of what each island has to offer.

In the Cooks, he consumes fiercely alcoholic bush-brewed beer and spends his time in the famous waterfront bars, rubbing shoulders with the locals. He then departs to Samoa, where he retraces the final days of Robert Louis Stevenson and learns quite a bit about the phenomenon of fa’afafine.

In Tonga, his next destination, Graeme is forced to impersonate a Mormon missionary while on Niue he gets a chance to cruise along the coast, attend the village church service, and witness a social gathering on the occasion of the Governor General’s visit.

During the voyages to French Polynesia, he searches for Herman Melville’s valley, uncovers the shocking secrets of Gauguin, finds out how to have a honeymoon, gets to know the connection between television and birth rates, and locates the heart of Tahiti.


If you have ever wanted to find a perfect example of a travel book, search no more – you’ve just found it. This title is the quintessence of the genre; it’s a book that will literally take you to the magical islands of the Blue Continent the moment you start reading its first sentence. I’m not sure if this is the result of Graeme Lay’s extensive knowledge of the Pacific region or his remarkable storytelling skills. It might be both actually.

The stories in the compilation are as varied as the isles of Polynesia. This is probably why the volume shines with so many different colours. Some of the tales are just humorous pieces, written to entertain readers and bring them a little joy and happiness. Others are educational, thought-provoking narratives that not only help you understand the cultures of the South Seas but also let you notice all the distinctions that exist between traditional and modern societies. I must say, this wonderful mix is like a refreshing cocktail made with a bunch of exotic – sometimes unusual but always tasty – ingredients: personal anecdotes, adventure yarns, depictions of faraway places, and interesting ethnological facts. It’s something you could drink, excuse me…read, any day of the week.

The book is beautifully constructed. It’s good old travel writing with a strong focus on characters and places. Vivid portrayals of both people and the tropics will make you long for ‘the paradise’ so badly that you will instantly want to follow in the author’s footsteps; just to sit in a bar, listen to the ocean, and chat with the friendly natives. It cannot be denied that Graeme Lay is a man of enormous talent. Whatever he chooses to describe, he does it in the most engaging way possible.

‘The Miss Tutti Frutti Contest’ is a delicious read. It’s charming, insightful, highly compelling. It’s your ticket to the South Pacific. I can’t imagine you wouldn’t want to set out on this journey.


‘Royal Visit to Tonga: Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh’ is the official record of the events that took place in the South Pacific kingdom in December 1953, when the British Queen and her husband were the guests of Queen Salote during their first Commonwealth Tour.



On the 3rd of February, 1953 the Kingdom of Tonga receives a message that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh will visit the island country during their December tour. The Privy Council immediately sets up a Royal Visit Committee – a group of officials responsible for all the arrangements. One of them is Kenneth Bain, a newly appointed Secretary to the Government.

When the preparations begin, the whole country gets involved. People are focused not only on making decorations and gifts but also on providing food, which on such occasions is a communal responsibility. Everyone is excited, happy, and eager to help.

After a few months of anticipation, the long-awaited day finally arrives. Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh are welcomed to the Friendly Islands by Queen Salote herself, the members of the Royal Family, and thousands of smiling Tongans. It’s time to start the joyful celebrations.


This is quite an unusual publication. At first glance you may think it’s just a written account of an important occasion in the history of Tonga, but the truth is, it is not. It is actually so much more. It’s not a memoir, it’s not a history book, it’s not a travelogue – it’s something in between. Kenneth Bain treats the Royal Visit as an opportunity to show readers the cultural richness of the last remaining Polynesian kingdom. He lets us explore local customs and traditions, discover ancient rituals and common practices, get to know official protocol and social etiquette. As everything is described in detail, you can understand what anga faka-Tonga – the Tongan way of doing things – really means.

The author’s narrative is extremely absorbing, so you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in the wonderful world of the South Seas. The chronicle may initially appear slightly mundane, but I can assure you that this is a well-paced and cleverly constructed page-turner that doesn’t disappoint. Not even for a minute will you feel bored. Especially that the captivating story is accompanied by beautiful photographs, many previously unseen, which are definitely an added bonus that enhances the reading experience.

Also worthy of note is Bain’s writing style. It is quite journalistic yet very compelling. The use of clear and concise language and the absence of unnecessary words make this volume immensely enjoyable. In terms of literary expression, I dare to say this is the best book in his Tongan trilogy.

This short – very short; too short – publication certainly makes a tremendous impression. It is an exceptionally well-written, highly informative, quite surprising, and thoroughly engaging piece of literature that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. It will be of great interest to people who are truly passionate about Pasifika. Kenneth Bain did an excellent job. He proved, once again, that the Friendly Islands are very friendly indeed.


‘The New Friendly Islanders: The Tonga of King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV’ is a continuation of Kenneth Bain’s earlier book about the South Pacific kingdom, ‘The Friendly Islanders’.



More than thirty years after his first visit, Kenneth Bain returns to the islands of Tonga. Even though he’s aware of some inevitable changes that occurred during his absence, he is still amazed how different the country actually feels.

As Bain rediscovers the place, he reminisces about the past but also wonders about the future. What does it hold for Tonga and its people? What is needed to take the kingdom intact into the new millennium? Will the country be able to preserve its culture? If yes, at what cost? None of these questions is easy to answer. But one thing is certain: life in Tonga is no longer a matter of ‘waiting for the coconut to fall’. There’s money involved; and sometimes it’s hard to resist the blandishments of the modern world.

In order to fully understand the situation, Kenneth Bain meets with various people. Futa Helu, King Taufa‘ahau Tupou IV as well as his sons: Crown Prince Tupouto‘a (King George Tupou V) and ʻAhoʻeitu (King Tupou VI) give their own opinions and predictions, letting the author know how they see things.


If Bain’s previous book on Tonga was good, this one is great. They may feel quite similar – and they are to some extent – but this volume is definitely far more interesting, far more amusing, and far more pleasant to read.

First and foremost, it is a delightful blend of real-life stories, myths, and legends. Mixing those three elements together was indeed a terrific idea. While most of the narratives are filled with pure facts, the so-called Legendary Interludes take readers on a wonderful journey to the past, letting them discover the utterly captivating Polynesian folklore – so deeply rooted in the Pacific cultures. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind reading more of these tales, because they are extremely compelling.

As for the stories about contemporary Tonga, they couldn’t be told any better. This time the author is less focused on politics and governmental issues, more on people and their lives in the fast-changing South Pacific region. He talks to the natives, asks questions, and searches for answers. As a New Zealander, he is an observer looking in from outside. And this is what makes his account so incredibly credible.

Another thing worth mentioning is Bain’s sense of humour: sharp, witty, a little unconventional. It shines through every page, but it’s not too intrusive. Well, one needs to be a master storyteller to achieve that. And this is exactly what Kenneth Bain is: a writer, not just a presenter of information.

I must say that I was once again drawn to the fascinating world of Polynesia’s last remaining monarchy. The book gave me some valuable insights into the changes that had occurred in Tonga in the early 90s. I learnt a lot. And so will you if you decide to read ‘The New Friendly Islanders’. I highly recommend it.


‘The Friendly Islanders: a story of Queen Salote and her people’ is a captivating account of the author’s time in the Kingdom of Tonga, where he served as a Secretary to the Government from 1953 to 1956.



After working in Fiji for a few years, Kenneth Bain gets transferred to Tonga. Having very little knowledge about the country and its inhabitants, he is quite surprised by the distinctive customs he encounters. But as he slowly adjusts to the new situation, he starts to understand the Tongan way of life. He explores the Pacific culture and gets to know fascinating stories from the past.

Quite a few of them refer to Queen Salote – much loved not only by Tongans but also by people all over the world. The author brings back memories from Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. During the long procession, the smiling monarch from the South Pacific kingdom chose to ride in an open carriage, despite pouring rain. She quickly won the hearts of the waiting crowds and from that moment was always greeted with friendly enthusiasm. Kenneth Bain gets a chance to find out about the nature of the Queen’s behaviour, which leads him to other discoveries regarding not only the Royal Family but also the country’s chiefs, nobles, and ordinary citizens.


I’ll be honest here, no other book describes Tonga so well. Kenneth Bain did a truly amazing job. His account is extremely informative, very accurate, and written with strong attention to detail.

There is, however, one thing you should be aware of. Despite all the depictions of the native inhabitants, this title is not an anthropological study. Yes, it shows Tongan practices and beliefs, but it’s more a general overview than an in-depth analysis. The author shares his personal impressions, feelings, and opinions, which – although very truthful – can’t be treated as universally applicable.

When it comes to the stories, some of them are obviously more interesting than the others. The most compelling are definitely the ones concerning the Islanders and the Royal Family. They are, in most parts, highly amusing; sometimes even hilarious. Exceptions? Well, there are a few. The depictions of tragic occurrences that happened in the kingdom, such as Queen Salote’s death, surely won’t bring a smile to your face. Nevertheless, I’m quite positive you will read them with great interest. Just don’t be surprised if you shed a tear or two. These pieces can really arouse emotions, so be prepared for that.

I wouldn’t say the book is an extremely easy or light read. Although written with a great sense of humour, in some parts it gets slightly official and mundane. Unless you are interested in politics, certain descriptions can make you feel a little overwhelmed.

All in all, I must admit that Kenneth Bain took me on a delightful journey to the islands of Tonga. It was wonderful to be able to discover the history of the country and learn more about its inhabitants. Beautiful photographs were definitely an extra bonus; as if the written word wasn’t enough.


‘New Tales of the South Pacific – No Place for Dreamers’ is the second book penned by Graeme Kennedy. The compilation contains six stories, all of which are set either in Samoa, Tonga, or Fiji.



While visiting his beloved Pacific, Graeme Kennedy decides to go off the beaten path and explore the islands outside the tourist resorts.

Starting in Samoa, he reminisces about Aggie Grey who overcame massive obstacles to develop her now famous Apia waterfront property. A well-known hotelier and a legend, often called the Queen of the South Seas, is still believed to have been James A. Michener’s model for his outrageous character, Bloody Mary.

He then moves to the islands of Tonga, where Sione Tupou dreams of nothing more than a boat large enough to take him into the deeper waters beyond the reef. But as the man soon learns, every dream has its price.

In the Fijian village of Vitogo, he meets Indian cane farmers living barely above the poverty line. Despite many adversities, they do whatever they can to provide for their families.

Back in the Samoan Archipelago, he visits a dying man who dares to fantasize about his little resort being packed with tourists. Fantasies do not always come true. But Jack cannot stop dreaming because dreams keep him alive.

On the same island – together with other palagis (foreigners) – he spends his time partying by the pool while two mates from New Zealand wait for death.


This book is somewhat similar in tone to the first volume of Kennedy’s tales. It is, however, a little more serious and not as light-hearted as you would expect.

All the stories are based on certain characters and their usually tragic experiences in the region many believe to be paradise. Instead of five-star resorts and pristine lagoons you get to know places full of dashed hopes and shattered dreams. Here is true Polynesia revealed. Graeme Kennedy makes you forget about that utopian fantasy that tends to linger in our minds. He shows the good, the bad, and the ugly. He exposes all the dark secrets people desperately want to hide. Everybody, welcome to the real world, where life is equally pleasant and hard. The sun may shine, but clouds are never far away. This seems to be the message the author tries to get across: there’s no such thing as a perfect place; but even if something’s not perfect, it doesn’t mean it cannot be loved.

Kennedy’s writing style is, again, absolutely amazing. The eloquent prose, almost completely deprived of humour, makes the book delightfully authentic. The effect is further enhanced by vivid descriptions that stir the imagination and arouse emotions. You feel as if you were actually there. You feel as if you actually knew all the characters – you laugh with them and you cry, you share their emotions, you experience their pain.

I must say that this book is, like its predecessor, very engaging and thoroughly enjoyable. It is also quite inspirational as every single tale paints a bigger picture – this is not just an account of someone’s adventures in the South Seas but a true representation of reality. If you are interested in the Pacific Islands, you won’t be able to put it down.


‘Ocean’s Kiss’ is a standalone novel in Lani Wendt Young’s Telesa World series. It tells the love story of Daniel Tahi’s father, and is set in contemporary Tonga and Samoa.



When Ronan Matiu comes to Daniel’s workshop, Leila instantly knows that this man isn’t just an ordinary customer. He may be a stranger, but she has seen him before. He looks all too familiar. He looks like…her husband Daniel, twenty years from now.

Ronan’s life wasn’t meant to be this way. He wanted a family and a peaceful existence with the woman he fell in love with a long time ago. But Moanasina walked away from him, leaving Ronan heartbroken and confused. Despite the bitter words she said, he simply can’t get her out of his heart and head.

After meeting Ronan, Daniel’s life gets stirred up again. His past is coming back to haunt him. He must decide if he will embrace his Tongan heritage and stand alongside the Vasa Loloa sisterhood of his mother’s people.


‘Ocean’s Kiss’ is Lani Wendt Young’s return to the world of Pacific mythology. Although the book is described as a ‘standalone novel’ in the Telesa World series, I don’t think it can be treated as such, as some parts might be slightly confusing for those who haven’t read the previous volumes. That’s not to say you shouldn’t reach for this title if you are not familiar with the other books in the series, but you will definitely enjoy this novel more if you read the entire collection.

It is never easy for an author to come back to the characters and storyline from the earlier volumes. The readers have certain expectations – quite rightfully so; after all, they have read the preceding books. They want to stay in the ‘place’ they know oh-so well, and yet they anticipate something new. One has to be a very gifted writer to meet this challenge. Or, one has to be Lani Wendt Young.

I won’t lie, ‘Ocean’s Kiss’ is a real treat primarily for the author’s fans. Those who have visited the world of Telesa before will be delighted to ‘meet’ Daniel, Leila, and Simone once again. But even those who have never had any of Lani Wendt Young’s books in their hands will quickly get hooked. Because the story itself is truly captivating.

Despite being heavily anchored in mythology – much more than the other titles in the series – the novel has a very contemporary feel to it. It strikes a perfect balance between the ancient Polynesian lore and the modern times. This combination of the past and the present makes for a unique reading experience and ensures that you will stay glued to the pages until the very end. Especially that the story isn’t purely about love, but covers a wide range of topics and themes. The author writes about loss and heartbreak, about forgiveness and reconciliation, about difficult life choices, and even about environmental issues. That’s surely a lot for one book, but in ‘Ocean’s Kiss’ everything is so smoothly intertwined you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Taking into account that Lani Wendt Young has a wonderful way with words, the novel is a joy to read. It is exceptionally well-written. The descriptions – which quickly transport you to the bewitching islands of the Pacific – are vivid yet not voluminous, and the author’s distinctive sense of humour lessens the seriousness of certain topics, making the book a light-hearted but still thought-provoking read. If only the newly-introduced characters were a little more defined, ‘Ocean’s Kiss’ would be close to perfection.

You can never go wrong with Lani Wendt Young’s books. They are all phenomenal. This title is no exception. So if you want to immerse yourself in the world of Pacific mythology and stay in the 21st century at the same time, this is the novel for you.


‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi’ is an account of the 2009 Pacific Tsunami that hit the countries of Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga on September, 29th. It was penned by a Samoan writer, Lani Wendt Young.



The morning of September 29th is like any other day in Samoa. Some people are getting ready for work, others are still asleep. They don’t know yet that their lives are soon going to change forever.

At 6.48 a.m. the earth begins to tremble; violently. Things are falling off the shelves; coconuts are falling off the trees; rocks are falling off the cliffs. A short while later, the sirens can be heard blaring out.

Most people, busy with their morning routines, don’t even notice the ocean receding. But the birds know. They know something is coming, so they take off. They take off before the first black wave starts rushing to the shore.


Imagine you’re watching one of those Hollywood-made disaster drama films. You know, the films with an all-star cast, great special effects, and a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat biting your nails in fear, excitement, or both. The films you’re watching thanking God it’s only a film. Well, ‘Galu Afi’ is such a film; only on paper.

You may think that this is just a book that recounts the tragic events of September 29th, 2009, but I can already tell you that it is not. This book is so much more. It shows us what’s really important in life. It proves that people can act like brothers, not enemies; that we can count on one another when the bad times come. It is, contrary to appearances, an unbelievably uplifting read; one that will stay in your head long after the book is closed.

Lani Wendt Young was given a tough job of putting together dozens of heartbreaking stories to document the disaster for Samoa and its people. It would be all too easy to create a volume full of sorrowful narratives, but she managed to avoid excessive sentimentality. Yes, the presented accounts are moving, poignant, at times even disturbing – and you might shed a tear or two. But you will also smile, because they are often laced with subtle, appropriate humour only Lani Wendt Young can deliver.

The emotions ‘Galu Afi’ evokes give you a true roller-coaster ride, largely due to the fact that you don’t stay in one story for a very long time. It seems as if the author had wanted all the voices to be heard. You meet one family, then you meet another, and another. There are so many characters, yet somehow you remember them all. You feel for them, admire them, wonder at their strength and resilience. And when you see their faces in the photographs, their tales become even more real. Suddenly you realize that this is not some Hollywood story, and that not everyone has a happy ending.

The book is written in a simple yet elegant style. Lani Wendt Young doesn’t show off her writing skills – she remains in the shadow, but she still gets to shine. The people’s voices are neatly stitched together with her own words, creating an absorbing read full of heart and soul.

Before I started reading ‘Galu Afi’, I had already known that Lani Wendt Young is an extraordinarily talented writer. But now I will say that she is a true literary artisan. This book isn’t good; it’s not even great. It can be described in one word only – a masterpiece. ‘Pacific Tsunami Galu Afi’ is a pure masterpiece.